Shish kebab served on a flatbread spread with hummus.
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Perfect shish kabob: how to make the barbecue skewer a success

Shish kebab is a popular barbecue skewer that can be found in different variations in the Levant. For me, the skewer is also a family memory, a memory of sunny days outside.

Every family has its own recipe, but the basics are the same. The types of meat and vegetables may vary, but all regions agree on the preparation: the meat must be roasted over a fire or on a grill. And so that you can prepare your barbecue kebab tender and juicy, you will find the right tips in this recipe for shish kebab.

Shish kebab: a culinary experience from the Levant

The name Shish Kebab comes from the Turkish Şiş Kebap, which means “skewer” and “roasted or grilled meat”. This name says it all. It’s a barbecue skewer with meat – and it goes on my barbecue during the barbecue season.

The art of skewering and grilling small pieces of meat is of course practiced all over the world. But every region has its own peculiarities. Over time, the lamb kebab has evolved in the Levant and taken on different regional forms, such as the Adana kebab from Turkey, which uses a mixture of lamb and beef. That would be a skewer with minced meat. But now we’re talking about small pieces of meat.

Table set with shish kebab, skewers on flatbread and hummus.

Choice of meat: lamb or alternatives?

One of the most important decisions for your barbecue skewer is choosing the right meat. An authentic shish kebab is traditionally made with lamb. Lamb is known for its intense flavor. But other types of meat or meat alternatives can also be skewered.

Lamb – the classic

When shish kebab is mentioned, many people immediately think of lamb – and for good reason. Lamb is the classic meat for this barbecue skewer and impresses with its unmistakable aroma. However, to unleash the full potential of lamb, you need the right marinade – I’ll tell you later.

The quality of the lamb plays a decisive role in the final result. It is worth paying attention to freshness and origin and buying the meat directly from the butcher.

To bring out all the flavors when grilling, you should use lamb with a fat content. This is because fat is a flavor carrier and also keeps the grilled meat nice and juicy. So it’s best to order leg of lamb or shoulder of lamb.

My parents used to take small pieces of pure lamb fat and layer it between the pieces of meat and the vegetables. This made the skewer even juicier.

What types of meat can I use for shish kebab if I don’t like lamb?

If you don’t like lamb, you can of course also use other meats. Shish Kebab is versatile and also offers you room for your personal preferences and creative experiments. In addition to lamb, beef or chicken can also be used, each of which brings its own character to the dish. For the chicken skewers, you can try out my recipe for shish taouk.

You can use beef rump or entrecôte. These cuts have a good fat content so that your shish kebab is nice and juicy.

Vegan kebab: a plant-based alternative

For those who prefer a vegetarian or vegan diet, there are equally delicious alternatives. Tofu, seitan or even jackfruit, which offer a similar texture to meat, can be used to make a barbecue skewer. You can simply use the marinade and leave the tofu or jackfruit to marinate overnight, for example, or if you make your own seitan, you can mix in the spices directly.

Although these plant-based alternatives are a completely different barbecue experience, they prove that the preparation of skewers can be versatile. So everyone can enjoy a juicy shish kebab, regardless of their personal dietary habits – although I would actually call the skewer something else.

Spices and marinades – it’s the flavor that counts

As soon as the first skewers are placed on the grill, the spectacle of flavors begins. The aroma that then develops really makes my mouth water. And this is not only due to the meat, but also to the spices.

The secret of every shish kebab lies in the marinade. The flavors develop best if you leave the meat in the seasoning sauce overnight.

Ingredients: Meat and spices for shish kebab.

Olive oil, garlic and spices

Olive oil is always a good thing! Here it serves as the base for the marinade for the shish kebabs. It not only makes the meat supple, but also ensures that the spices can be evenly distributed.

Then add garlic, lemon, spices and herbs to make the perfect marinade. If you want something really basic, the following ingredients are all you need. My personal recipe follows below. Here are the basics:

  • Olive oil
  • Garlic cloves
  • Lemon juice (you can also use the lemon zest)
  • Salt and pepper

Spices and aromatic herbs

Levantine cuisine is characterized by its strong but subtle use of spices. The natural aroma of the food should be emphasized and not masked. So always pay attention to this when seasoning and marinating.

The essentials – the ingredients for shish kebab

You will need the following ingredients for the skewers:

  • Lamb or beef (with a fatty grain)
  • Garlic
  • lemon juice
  • Spices: Paprika powder, cumin, cardamom, nutmeg, cinnamon, sumac, chili flakes, allspice, salt and pepper
  • Olive oil
  • Onions
  • optional: colored peppers

Traditionally, we always serve grilled kebabs with a delicious onion salad with fresh parsley and sumac.

For the onion salad you need:

  • Large onion
  • Flat-leaf parsley
  • Sumac

How long should the meat marinate?

The meat for shish kebab should be marinated for at least 60 minutes and up to 12 hours. Personally, I always recommend at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight in the fridge, so that the flavors can soak into the meat.

Marinated meat in a bowl for shish kebab.

You already know which meat and which spices are best to use for the aromatic barbecue skewers. Always pay attention to the quality of the products, as this guarantees you a delicious taste experience.

All the ingredients for shish kebab: vegetables, meat, herbs and spices.

If you already have metal skewers or wooden skewers to hand, you can start preparing them straight away.

From the grill to the plate: preparation and side dishes

Traditionally, shish kebabs are prepared on metal skewers over an open fire. However, as not everyone is able to make a fire, a gas grill, contact grill or a grill pan are of course also possible – but in my opinion the best results are definitely achieved on a charcoal grill.

The preparation steps for the meat skewers are as follows:

Shish kebab is prepared: Onions, peppers and meat are skewered.
  1. Cut the meat into cubes.
  2. For the marinade, finely chop the garlic and mix with the oil, lemon juice and spices.
  3. Place the meat in the marinade and leave to marinate overnight or for at least 4 hours so that the meat absorbs all the flavors.
  4. Dice the peppers and onions.
  5. Now place onion, bell pepper and diced meat on skewer after skewer.
  6. Grill the skewers on all sides – approx. 1-2 minutes per side. If you want the meat to be medium, it is best to work with a thermometer(core temperature of approx. 58 – 60°C). But you can always try a piece from the skewer directly.
  7. For the onion salad, slice the onions into thin rings, chop the parsley, mix everything well with the sumac and leave to infuse.
Marinate the sumac onions with the parsley in a bowl.

The preparation and cooking of the recipe is therefore super easy and perfect for any barbecue evening.

My insider tip for shish kebab

I learned this from my parents: when you grill the meat skewers, you should put some fresh Lebanese flatbread to one side. I then tear open the flatbread, lay it on my hand like a cloth and then place the grilled skewer on top.

This allows me to dab the meat juices from the skewers. The flatbread is flavored with the marinade and meat juices and is then the perfect snack to go with the skewer. Goes perfectly with hummus, for example.

You can also use the flatbread as a very simple serving dish. After I have finished grilling the skewers, I place them on a flatbread and dab the meat with it again. This allows the bread to soak up the fantastic grill flavors. The flatbread packed with skewers is then covered with another flatbread. The meat stays warm for longer and can be served straight away.

Shish kebab is pulled from the skewer into a flatbread.

The perfect accompaniment for aromatic barbecue skewers

Even though I could eat my fill of the skewers, great side dishes round everything off nicely.

We always have tabouleh or fattoush at our barbecues. These two salads have a great, fresh acidity and offer a good counterpart to the hearty meat of the shish kebab.

For me, shish kebab is always accompanied by onion salad with parsley and sumac as well as a good dollop of hummus and flatbread. I either tear off a piece of bread and take a piece of meat from the skewer and some onion salad and then pull the whole thing through creamy hummus – or I make myself a wrap with the same ingredients.

For the wrap, I spread hummus on the flatbread, spread the onion salad and place the skewer in the middle of the bread. Then all I have to do is pull the skewer off the meat and I can roll up the bread.

Another great accompaniment to the barbecue skewers is the subtly smoky freekeh salad.

Freekeh salad served on a plate.

Another classic on the plate is tzatziki, a creamy Greek yogurt dip with finely chopped garlic, cucumber and a dash of white wine vinegar. The tart freshness of the tsatsiki harmonizes wonderfully with the rich flavours of the grilled meat. But if you prefer a vegan dip, then hummus or zhug is of course a good choice.

Tsatsiki - Greek yogurt dip served in a bowl.

Flatbread is another element that plays a central role in the Levant and should not be missing from the shish kebab – I really cannot emphasize this enough. As I said, the soft, warm bread really lends itself very well to absorbing the delicious juices of the meat. You can also serve it with pita bread or Turkish flatbread.

Lebanese flatbread lies next to a bowl of hummus.

Discover culinary diversity: Shish Kebab worldwide

Shish kebab is a global phenomenon that has taken on its own unique form in many countries. From Ćevapi (made from minced beef or minced lamb) and shashlik (with onions and peppers) in south-eastern Europe to gyros prepared with pork in Greece and Iranian shishlik – the international variations are of course always a reflection of the local ingredients and traditions.

I hope you now have a good idea of how to prepare a perfect shish kebab and also how and what to eat with it. So I’m really hungry now – are you? Be sure to try the meat skewers and leave a comment on how you liked them. In any case, I hope you enjoy trying them out and bon appétit!


Recipe for shish kebab – Levant barbecue skewer

Shish Kebab auf einem mit Hummus bestrichenem Fladenbrot serviert.
Print Recipe Rezept speichern
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Ruhezeit 4 hours
Servings 12 Spieße
Calories 97

Equipment

  • Grill, Kontaktgrill oder Grillpfanne
  • 12 Grillspieße (á 21 cm)

Ingredients

Für die Spieße

  • 500 g Lammfleisch (oder Rindfleisch) sollte eine gute Portion Fett bzw. eine fettreiche Maserung haben z.B. aus der Keule oder Schulter.
  • 1/2 Knoblauchzehe
  • 20 ml Zitronensaft
  • 30 ml Olivenöl
  • 1 Teelöffel Paprikapulver, edelsüß
  • 1/2 Teelöffel Kreuzkümmel, gemahlen
  • 1/2 Teelöffel Kardamom, gemahlen
  • 1/2 Teelöffel Muskatnuss, gemahlen
  • 1/2 Teelöffel Zimt
  • 1/2 Teelöffel Sumach
  • 1/2 Teelöffel Chiliflocken
  • 1/2 Teelöffel Salz
  • 1/2 Teelöffel Pfeffer
  • 1/4 Teelöffel Piment, gemahlen
  • 3 bunte Paprika
  • 2 Zwiebeln

Für den Zwiebelsalat

  • 1 große Zwiebel
  • 10 g Petersilie
  • 2 Teelöffel Sumach

Zum Servieren

  • Libanesisches Fladenbrot
  • Hummus

Zubereitung

Für die Spieße

  • Das Fleisch in ca. 2 x 2 cm Würfel schneiden.
  • Für die Marinade Knoblauch fein reiben.
  • In einer Schüssel Öl mit Knoblauch, Zitronensaft und Gewürzen verrühren.
  • Fleisch in die Marinade geben und alles mit den Händen (am besten mit Handschuhen) einreiben, so dass die Marinade überall am Fleisch haften bleibt.
  • Mariniertes Fleisch mit Folie abdecken und mindestens 4 Stunden, am besten über Nacht, im Kühlschrank ziehen lassen.
  • Für die Spieße Paprika waschen, halbieren, entkernen, Strunk entfernen und in Würfel schneiden. Achte darauf alle Gemüsewürfel gleich groß zu schneiden, damit die Spieße nicht unregelmäßig werden.
  • Zwiebeln schälen und ebenfalls in Würfel schneiden.
  • Nun Spieß für Spieß abwechselnd mit Zwiebel, Paprika und Fleischwürfeln bestücken.
  • Spieße grillen, bis Grillstreifen entstehen. Möchtest du dein Fleisch leicht Rosa essen, dann arbeite mit einem Thermometer. Bei einer Kerntemperatur von ca. 58 – 60°C hast du deine gewünschte Garstufe erreicht.

Für den Zwiebelsalat

  • Für den Salat Zwiebel schälen und in dünne Ringe schneiden.
  • Petersilie waschen und grob hacken. Etwas davon zum Servieren zur Seite legen.
  • Zwiebelringe in einer Schüssel mit Petersilie und Sumach vermischen und ziehen lassen.

Zum Servieren

  • Shish Kebab nach Belieben mit Zwiebelsalat sowie z.B. Hummus und Fladenbrot servieren.

Notes

Rezept enthält Affiliate-Links.

Nährwerte

Calories: 97kcal | Carbohydrates: 5g | Protein: 9g | Fat: 5g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 27mg | Sodium: 46mg | Potassium: 233mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 1049IU | Vitamin C: 42mg | Calcium: 15mg | Iron: 1mg

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